Mesothelioma Strikes Early (Guest Post)

A fellow blogger friend contacted me to ask if I would share her courageous story. Heather wishes to tell her cancer story in order to spread awareness about this devastating form of cancer, which is caused by asbestos exposure. Please read her testimony and visit her site to learn more about this amazing cancer survivor and her family!

Mesothelioma Strikes Early

“You have cancer” are the three most dreaded words a person can hear. These are the word I heard when my life was at its best. My new baby was barely over three months old when the devastating news was given to me. I was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, which is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos. Most people have trouble believing that asbestos is still an issue since they think it has been completely banned, but the truth is, it hasn’t.

One of the main questions I am asked is, “Where did you get exposed to asbestos?” When I explain that I am a victim of secondary exposure, it nearly boggles the questioner’s mind. My dad did construction work that involved taping drywall, then mudding and sanding it. Unknown to him or my family, the white powdery dust he wore home on his work clothes each night contained millions of microscopic fibers of asbestos. It even infiltrated the family car in which we all rode.

My diagnosis came when I was only 36. At the time, I was one of only two people known by the Mayo Clinic to have received this news at such a young age. Normally, the disease is found in older males who were electricians, plumbers, heating technicians and mechanics, or perhaps were stationed on ships in the military. It has become more and more common, though, that the wives of these tradesmen started coming down with the same symptoms as the men. Because these women would try to shake out the dust from their husbands’ dirty work clothes before loading the washing machine, they were inadvertently breathing particles of asbestos that had been caked onto the material. Other women were affected due to the asbestos that was prevalent in school buildings where they worked as secretaries or teachers.

The story of dread does not stop with the wives, though. It extends down to the next generation. It includes the children. The children who played games of hiding in the attic amidst the vermiculite insulation teaming with asbestos never dreamed they were inhaling dangerous particles. The little girls who ran to leap into their daddy’s arms when he got home from work could never have known that they were setting themselves up for a diagnosis of cancer later in life.

My involvement with the mesothelioma community is now bringing me into contact with younger and younger victims all the time. I am meeting newlyweds and new parents who have barely started their lives but are currently facing the fight of a lifetime to try to beat mesothelioma. One bright spot in the picture is the fact that there are now advances in treating mesothelioma that did not exist earlier. There is a better mesothelioma survival rate in all age ranges now.

The dreaded three words are still devastating, but there is a community of support, and there are survivors to offer encouragement. I will keep sharing my story to bring awareness, then I will have succeeded.

To learn more about Heather, check out & “like” her new Facebook page dedicated to mesothelioma awareness & support! You can follow her journey: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherVonStJames?ref=hl

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